Guest Editorial BY MIKE BOGGS, SALES MANAGER, STRIKER SYSTEMS Decoding punch programming Assess current methods to further automate processing lthough laser cutting’s versatility has made it a prevalent technol-ogy for sheet metal fabricators, CNC punching continues to excel in ap-plications where it can produce parts cheaper and faster and wherever second-ary operations can be eliminated. Fabricators who rely on punching technology often struggle with programming op-erations because punch machines are inherently more involved to program than laser machines. This stems from myr-iad tooling options that introduce placement, ordering and tool path considerations. Machine and tooling manufacturers continue to advance punching technol-ogy to broaden its applicability, and these advancements often increase the com-plexity of CNC punch programming. This leaves many fabricators questioning whether punch programming can ever move beyond interactive methods. The level of punch programming automation that can actually be achieved depends upon many factors, but at a minimum, ex-isting programming processes can often be improved. tooling on punched parts to override au-tomatic tooling results and address engineering changes. A simplest of parts. The following punching operations should be considered: • Standard tool placement— Your programming software should be able to accurately place standard tools, such as rounds, obrounds, squares, rec-tangles, ‘D’ tools and polygons. But if your parts contain com-plex geometric configurations, such as involved bend reliefs, even the placement of standard tools can be challenging. Ide-ally your programming software will also memorize desired tool-ing patterns for a selected geometric configuration and repeat that tooling pattern as that geometric config-uration is encountered in subsequent operations. This allows your punching software to adapt to your programming re-quirements and become more automated over time. • Shaker tab (micro-joint) place-ment— Automatic placement of shaker tabs requires accurate calculation of tab lo-cations and tab size, which can be both part and material dependent. Tabbing spe-cific tools could require consideration. • Special tool placement— Perhaps the most challenging punching operation to automate is the placement of special tools. Forming tools, tapping tools, rolling tools, cluster tools, bending tools, charac-ter tools, deburring tools and others can require extensive part analysis for accurate feature identification and tool placement. In addition to automatic punching, pro-gramming software should quickly modify Pre-tooling vs. dynamic tooling Punch programming software should pro-vide the option to pre-tool parts, dynamically tool parts or some combina-tion of the two. A pre-tooled part is one where the punch tooling is applied prior to the part being positioned on the sheet. The part is then maintained in a library with the tooling already in place. This is ideal for standard parts that are run repeatedly in varying quantities because it guarantees tooling accuracy and consistency. Alternatively, parts can be dynamically tooled. This refers to parts being tooled on demand after, or in conjunction with, being placed on the sheet. A separate tooled instance of the part is not main-tained. This is more suited to custom parts that are not likely to run again. Deter-mining which approach to implement depends on such factors as production style, complexity of parts and punch ma-chine features. Extensive analysis Accurately tooled parts are key to pro-gramming automation, but your programming software must also opti-mally process the tooled parts and take advantage of advanced punch machine capabilities. This can include tool sorting, tool path optimization, sheet reposition-ing, programmable clamp processing and drop door support. Each of these opera-tions requires extensive analysis to automate, and each can introduce excep-tions that must be managed. Automating punch programming be-gins with an assessment of current programming methods. Each point of user intervention should be evaluated against programming software capability and process requirements. As software products continually advance, this should be an ongoing process with periodic re-views to ensure best practices. The end result may be significant reductions in punch programming time. FFJ Tool placement How automated CNC punch program-ming can become depends on how effectively the programming software ap-plies tools to parts. This is the software operation that we most commonly think of as “punching.” If the software punches every part optimally, then a high degree of automation is likely to be achieved. But, as anyone who has ever pro-grammed a punch machine knows, this can be quite challenging except with the 14 FFJournal ¨ September 2017 Striker Systems , White House, Tennessee, 800/950-7862, www.strikersystems.com.